For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows grace and favor and glory - honor, splendor and heavenly bliss! No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.

Psalms 84:11

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Deconstructed

Yesterday was a crazy crazy day, and the days leading up to it just as crazy. I am so tired now that I feel that if I blink for just a little too long that I'll fall completely asleep. I'm sure that this is compounded by the fact that the wind here is extremely gusty and woke me up several times last night.

Christmas morning started with us rousing the girls from their slumber an hour before they usually wake up, getting them ready, and then loading them and all our gifts into the car for the drive to Grandma & Grandpa's house. And when I say WE what I really mean is ME because I'm the only member of my little family who is allowed to lift anything. We took two cars since we couldn't fit all the gifts plus 3 adults into one vehicle (yes, my MIL is staying with us for two weeks).

We got to Grandma & Grandpa's house all in one piece, and ON TIME to boot! That pretty much never happens!

Next was breakfast. I brought homemade cinnamon rolls and my mom provided coffee, juice, yogurt, and quiche. I shared my breakfast with Ziva, and she ate most of it, which left me a bit hungry, but there was no time to think twice about it before diving into presents. I did get 2 cups of coffee though, so I was good to go. The girls did great with the presents, although we forgot our camera lots of other people had theirs so hopefully within the next year I'll get pictures. They were VERY excited about them. Ziva kept saying, "Presents? Birthday? YAYYYY!!!!" She also delivered a few presents before she couldn't stand it any longer and started opening! They got some excellent gifts from the fam: new clothes, art supplies, wooden cars, grocery carts complete with "food". The tutu's I made for them were a bit of a bust, they were AFRAID of them! Seriously?! I can't catch a break with these girls being afraid of inanimate objects. Did I tell you that we didn't get professional pictures of them this year because although I took them TWICE to the studio they were AFRAID of the backdrops and would scream bloody murder every time they were asked to get within 10 feet of them?? Just thinking about it almost makes ME cry, that's how traumatic it was.


As I've mentioned before, we decided to do homemade gifts this year instead of store bought in an attempt to make it more meaningful. Overall I think it went pretty well. The gifts that were given were given with thought and purpose and meaning. My mom made some amazing gifts for people including aprons for me and my sister and photo albums for Hubs. But the sheer volume of gifts was still a bit overwhelming for me. We still spent the majority of the day opening presents, which is what has also happened in the past. Somehow I feel that the presents should be a side note rather than the main event, but I really don't know how to get this to happen. One comment my mom has made (and I think it's probably a common thought), if we don't spend the time opening gifts then what do we do? My first thought was play games, but as my mom pointed out, some people don't like games and we don't want to leave them out. And how do you come up with NEW traditions after 50+ years of doing the current ones? Especially without upsetting people who have helped create those traditions? So much of Christmas is about nostalgia, and if we revamp how we do things it will inevitably involve stepping on toes. If anyone out there has ideas please share!!!

The major bright spot in the day for me was when the girls actually NAPPED at Grandma & Grandpa's house! It was a Christmas miracle!!! During nap time we were able to sit and chat and believe it or not... RELAX! My Grandma & Uncle Butch were able to be with us yesterday, and it's the first Christmas that they've been able to attend so that was very fun. My grandma is 93 years old, and she and my Uncle Butch told stories and cracked jokes and generally made the day very entertaining. At one point they were talking about my Grandma going to visit her sister down in Fresno, CA this summer and my Uncle said he'd be willing to drive her as far as Woodburn, OR but then she was on her own. But he'd be kind enough to drop her on the side of the freeway with a sign saying: Fresno or BUST! How kind of him, don't ya think?! But don't you worry Readers, my Uncle Butch loves his momma and would never do such a thing, he just likes to talk trash and get everyone laughing. Growing up I never knew what to make of Uncle Butch. When I was in college on the East Coast he'd always tease me about not bringing home any lobsters home with me for him. "Where's my lobsters? You didn't bring me any??? Well you better get on back there and bring me some next time! Put 'em in your carry on luggage so they stay nice and fresh." So his presence yesterday kept us laughing, and we desperately needed it what with all the other family drama goin' down that I can't discuss here. Thankfully the drama was kept to a minimum yesterday.

So today I'm tired. Very tired. Hopefully a nap for me is on the agenda.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Against Principalities and Powers

This is a very difficult time for a lot of people. A time of year when memory seems to be amplified, when lost traditions are remembered, when loved ones are missed, when we're constantly reminded of what really matters in life and often feel like our own lives fall short.

I've written before about some of the difficulties my own family has had this year. But I know we're not the only ones. And I know many people with much worse problems. People who thought they had it all together are now loosing their homes to foreclosure. People are worried about our nation. They're worrying about health care and hand gun reform, and whether or not Obama deserves the Peace Prize. People are going through divorces at an alarming rate. People are dealing with sick loved ones, or the death of someone close. It's a terrible world. And if you look at the Bible it says things are only going to get worse before Christ's return.

When I was thinking about all of this today, I was struck suddenly by a verse. I could only remember that it had something to do with Principalities and Powers. That our battle is against the spiritual realm. A little google search later and I found it:

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand." Ephesians 6:12-13

We are in a huge spiritual battle. And Satan is having his hay day. And we need to be prepared. How do we do that? We put on our armor.

"Stand firm then,
with the belt of truth buckled around your waist,
with a breastplate of righteousness in place,
and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
In addition to this,
take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."
Ephesians 6:14-17

In order to have access to this powerful set of armor, it requires discipline and study. This is not the easiest thing to do, especially when you're already in the middle of a great battle, as many of us currently are. But it only takes a minute or two to open the Word, put your finger on a passage, and arm yourself. I know one lady who reads 3 chapters of the Bible a day, it usually takes her 5-10 minutes. And seriously, this is something I need to do! I'm preaching to myself as I write this!!!

And sorry to jump around, but here's my thought. It's almost Christmas. The holiday that is supposed to be about the birth of Jesus. And yet our society (and let's face it, the forces of evil) have twisted it into something it's not. Into a holiday about Santa and retail marketing, and stress. Let's not forget the stress. Because spending great deals of time thinking about what you should get for various family members can be stressful. Worrying about your credit card bill because you spent too much on gifts is stressful. And for many, thinking about what won't be under the tree for you children is... heartbreakingly stressful.

We've taken the gift of Christ, which was meant to SAVE us, and turned it into a total fiasco. Just try to tell me Satan didn't have something to do with that!

Yes folks, we are fighting against the spiritual world here. And this time of year, the battle is ON! Big time! So we need to focus on our armor and prepare ourselves for attack, because by now it should be obvious that it's coming, if not already here.

But remember, there is light at the end of this tunnel. Jesus came to save the lost. He came for you, for me, for your neighbor, your uncle Frank, your cousin Shelly, your neighbor across the street, your co-worker who drives you nuts. He came for ALL of us!

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. - Jeremiah 29:11

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. - Romans 15:13

But Christ is faithful as a son over God's house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast. - Hebrews 3:6

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:6-7


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Fun Holiday Treats - Perfect for Gift Giving!

Before we get to the point of this post I thought I'd start with a somewhat entertaining side note. I know side notes usually come AFTER you've written your main point, but hang in with me and you'll see why.

I'm a bit afraid of re-entering my kitchen. I think it's finally decided to turn on me. Yesterday I broke not one, not TWO, but THREE separate dishes! And the day before that I broke yet a FOURTH dish!!! What is WRONG with me?!?

For the record, I broke:
- A hand painted mixing bowl that was a wedding gift from my parent's neighbors. It was one of my favorites.
- A Japanese rice bowl that was a part of a set that Hubs and I bought in one of our last pre-baby trips. It had blue fireflies painted on the inside... it was very pretty. Thankfully I have 3 others just like it.
- The cap to the PAM spray. Ok, I know that's not a dish, but it shattered in a million pieces when it hit the floor and really rattled my nerves. Plus it required a careful clean up.
- And last but not least, a candle holder that my mom gave me. She found it at Goodwill so obviously it wasn't that valuable, but it was really cute and it matched my wedding set so I was pretty sad to see it break. This particular item was my last and final straw before I said adieu to the kitchen for the day. I had taken it out of a cupboard in order to reach something else and it was precariously placed on top of the refrigerator (obviously I thought it would get put right back into the cupboard but I must have had an ADD moment and forgot to put it back in). In any case, I pretty much set my very own booby trap! Because when I went to get ice out of the freezer the candle holder came right down onto my head! My own kitchen was ATTACKING ME!!!

Basically, nothing super valuable was broken, but CRIPES!!! I didn't cook dinner last night because I was afraid of what else might get smashed to pieces! And I was SUPER careful when I unloaded the dishwasher this morning! lol... I feel like such a clumsy knucklehead!

And now for the point of the post, but first, a warning...

WARNING!!! If you are a family member or a friend who normally receives gifts from me, DO NOT SCROLL DOWN OR YOU WILL RUIN THE SURPRISE!!!

Is it safe yet???

Ok, I'm assuming it's safe from any prying familial eyes...

I'm planning to do a bunch of holiday baking and candy making this coming week in order to have homemade goodies on hand for gift giving. In case you hadn't heard, my family is trying to Give More & Spend Less this holiday season, and I plan to shower my friends & family with homemade goodness from my kitchen. In the spirit of giving, I'm passing on the links to wonderful sites with the recipes.

The Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Rolls
The Pioneer Woman's Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies
The Pioneer Woman's Chocolate Truffles w/ Sea Salt

Can you tell I'm a fan of hers? Just slightly...

I'm also making Salted Browned Butter Rice Krispy Treats by Smitten Kitchen.

And my Ye Old family recipe for Cream Cheese Mints. Which I shall share with you on a later date.

Should be a fun week! As long as I don't break anything else, in which case I might just throw in the towel and not cook again until New Years.
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